Saturday 18 October 2014

Moving the goal posts

Three years after councillors narrowly voted to accept a planning application for a supermarket in Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthenshire County Council's planning department has finally issued a certificate which will allow the controversial scheme to go ahead, assuming that there is a supermarket chain out there willing to take on the site.

It is highly unusual for a planning authority to allow matters to drag on as long as this, and the hold-up was the applicant's inability to meet the conditions of a Section 106 Agreement.

The S106 Agreement concerned improvements to a walkway from the proposed supermarket through into the main part of the town, a stretch of roughly 40 yards across land owned by a third party, but the owner of the main site and the owners of the strip connecting the site with the town were unable to agree terms.

Throughout the entire history of this long-running planning dispute, the planners in County Hall have bent over backwards to aid the developer, and they performed even more somersaults in the final phase of the battle.

The solution they have come up with involves the payment of £38,000 by the would-be developer to buy himself out of the S106 obligations, with the council declaring that it has unearthed a covenant allowing users of a council-owned car park to cross the disputed strip of land. By extension, it says, that would allow customers of the supermarket to use the same walkway.

However, the council does not have powers to force the owners of the disputed piece of land to agree to make the improvements which were a condition of planning back in September 2011.

Residents of Newcastle Emlyn may recall that when the application was up for approval, both the developer and planning officers argued at length that the greatest strength of this site was its proximity to the town centre, and that the walkway would enable customers to move seamlessly from the supermarket into the town. That in turn was supposed to be a guarantee that the proposed supermarket would not suck the life blood out of the town centre, but would instead ensure its vitality and viability.

Thanks to the payment of £38,000 in pieces of silver this is all now swept aside, with planners stating "it needs to be noted that the area no longer forms part of the application site".

There have long been dark mutterings about friends in high places and strings being pulled. When councillors voted to accept the original plan back in 2011 the leader of the Independent group on the council, Pam Palmer, denied instructing her troops to vote in favour of the application, although coincidentally they all raised their hands at the right time along with their Labour Party friends.

If the site is ever developed, Carmarthenshire County Council will be directly responsible for a scheme which would destroy local businesses and jobs, wrecking what is still an attractive and vibrant market town.


Anonymous said...

Castell Newydd is pretty much an English village now anyway

Anonymous said...

Supermarkets in the centre of towns bring business in, and allow cheap parking for high footfall. Out if town supermarkets are the problem. A well integrated supermarket in new emlyn would lower prices and increase footfall. A blanket opposition to supermarkets is short sighted.

Anonymous said...

The difficulty you have here is that most local people would probably welcome a supermarket in the town. Why should NCE people who don't have access to a car be denied the range of goods available in supermarkets just because you want the town to be preserved in aspic.

Times move on and shopping habits change. Small shops charge more and don't provide a service that makes it worth it. I remember a time what a grocer would pack the goods Into a box as he rung the stuff up on his till but those days are gone.

You will no,doubt say that people can travel to Carmarthen but it's not he same. You will also say that large supermarkets change the character of a town and cite. Carmarthen as an example. This is just not Tuesday. The town appears to be thriving - Evan King Street is improving.

In short NCE should have a supermarket and local shops will compete and survive.

Cneifiwr said...

It's not about preserving the town in aspic. NCE is going to get an Aldi, and personally I support that. Do we need CK's, Aldi, Coop and ANO? In a place this size?

Market dynamics are starting to move against the big 4 supermarkets, and if anyone thinks that any of them is itching to come to NCE, take a look at Cardigan and the Sainsbury's saga.

It's true that many people may want more supermarkets, but there are a good many families in NCE who depend on the existing shops for their livelihoods. What would you rather have - jobs or yet another supermarket?

Anonymous said...

Surely it's all down to simple economics. If the business is there the supermarket will survive.

Shops roundabout will also survive and probably thrive as long as they don't try and compete on price on the same merchandise.

It's lovely to think that small Welsh towns can retain their character but stopping supermarket development is not the answer. It is always the people who have cars and means to travel that complain about developments like this.

Presumably you use a supermarket, possibly doing a big family shop from time to time. Why would you want to deny less fortunate people without transport the same opportunity.

As regards jobs, who knows, there may be opportunities for local people some of whom would never be offered a job in a family run business subject to the vagaries of "who you know"etc.

Jac o' the North, said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jac o' the North, said...

Anon 13:37, Even if there was more employment locally it would be unlikely to push up property values because these are completely out of synch with local wage levels, and of course any new jobs would pay local wages.

As for "attractive, ultra low carbon social housing" (which I suspect is your real interest), this is unlikely to be of much benefit unless applicants with strong local connections have priority over those who have never been to Wales in their lives yet get allocated social housing here!

And the same applies to jobs; for too many employers moving into rural Wales bring their workforces with them. So the bottom line has to be, priority for locals in employment and social housing.

Redhead said...

A supermarket which is losing money in one place can subsidise it by profits made in another.

Why don't they close underperforming supermarkets?
Because they would rather undertrade than leave a town open to a rival which would then nominally increase its market share - even being prepared to undertrade to do so as it makes its national coverage look good.

A small independent shop has no such luxury: under-trading means closure.

The large supermarket can also make "seasonal" offers: viciously cutting prices for a brief period (say Christmas) and selling in volume, undercutting other traders, and then putting their prices up by much more in January.

And NEVER believe the figures for employment: they "borrow" staff from other branches in the first weeks and only talk about the number of jobs, not the number of hours or the wages. "200 jobs" can reasonably be deduced to be less than 100 full-time equivalents many on minimum wage and zero hours which, of course, has to be offset by jobs lost.

Sure, have your four, five or six big supermarkets but do not assume that everyone is benefitting equally.

Anonymous said...

rwyn meddwl falle bod angen supermarket arall ar Castell newydd, reit agos i'r de er mwyn canolbwyntio y footfall. mae petrol yn bryd a siopau bach yn gallu bod yn bryd yn enwedig y Cop, er fy mod wastad yn cefnogi busnesau bach gorau gallaf.

Anonymous said...

Why the pessimistic view about 'English retiring to Newcastle Emlyn? And the young leaving?' We are a young family moving from England to NCE with our young child to make a go of our own business and life in NCE. We will be contributing to the local businesses and communities.
Its not useful to harbour such negative stereotypes.